I glance at my body in the mirror as I walk out of the locker room. It is the blue tinge around my horizontal slit-of-a-navel that does somehow make me cringe.
Holding the wall and walking cautiously, I think how they will surely no longer ask, “Are you pregnant?” with a bit of uncertainty.
When I would say yes, they would often continue, “Is it your first?” and I would think that they also did not notice my, “Advanced maternal age.” “First and second,” has become my standard answer. It flows out with a sigh that accompanies my mind along a winding road of fear: how will I manage?
I carry now not only this ultra-stuffed belly, but also a persistent cloud of numbness and wonder. It holds me one step back from fear, in some inarticulable embrace of faith.
To this day, it has been a six-year painstaking and convoluted road all for conceiving, by choice, as a single woman. The whole story would likely blockbust Hollywood, honestly, though I never would have wished it this way. Dramatic world traveling and a host of accompanying knee-buckling adventures replaced the at-home private and partnered intimacy I had always imagined.
It started on my 40th birthday. I threw off my clothes, entered this rare fresh water spring in our New Mexico desert, and dunked. I shouted. I cried. I gave up. It was that life-long and indeed life-line-feeling idea of partnering in a perfection that would birth children which I was tossing now. I would have to go solo. There was no more time. I then called men I knew, a few, all around the world, asking for this peculiar little favour: some seed, please?
The subsequent string of events and circumstances demanded I give up things dear, repeatedly. I gave up friendships and family bonds that I thought were solid, gave up being understood, gave up my savings very reticently but finally completely, gave up hopes of romance, gave up conceptions that did not last, and finally I gave up that once intense import to know the person from whom the seeds would come. When the final man-friend of a few again debunked our plans, I was left in Greece, solo and near penniless.
I gave up. I got sperm via a clinic from ‘anonymous’ along with interventions of a Doc and his clinical methods.
Nothing went as I had wanted or imagined, save the essential bottom line: I was pregnant and would birth through my own womb, my progeny. Now, imagining cutting that womb soon, rattles me deeply.
The pool is warm. These months, it is my safe-haven. I step in. Me – this solo mama, literally bankrupt, and bearing two babies soon, a family-of-origin mostly scoffing at the terrible mistake, friends turning attention away to more comprehensible things – I focus entirely into the water. I drop in.
I am assured that I am carried.
Here, I can hold it all.
I begin diving. Repeatedly: head up, quickly down, fierce flutter kicks, flip, come up, down again…while talking to the little sprout who for weeks now has been sitting on my cervix.
“Head down baby…”
“Butt up, head down, my baby – flip over, ok?”
“Work with me here, ok, I am Mama…”
Three weeks later, in a 6 a.m. chill, I am scuffing my winter boots into the hospital, according to the doctor’s prescribed date: 38 weeks, the standard ‘max’ for twins.
During those weeks, I changed my mind. I changed my hopes and plans. My Doc and I discussed. I called upon the right friends. My doula agreed to step out, and give her space in the operating room to Madi, my spirit-sister in song.
I had known that cutting ceremonies are ancient as spiritual practice in many cultures. This would become mine – my ceremony – with the cutting of me, for love, for birthing family.
My midwife holds my head as I lean forward in my mostly open gown, bright lights all around, to be injected in my spine. I am afraid. I feel meek, but I know we have set this up to be sacred; those plans and this wise woman holding me, I lay down. Feeling the strange sense of disappearance of my lower half, I sharpen my mind, again, on these new plans…so I can do what I can to birth in glory.
The surgical team moves swiftly, a lot is bustling around me. Tension is coursing through my body though I am aching to relax. My midwife’s blue eyes gaze steadily over the pale yellow mask, linking with mine. My head is turned to my left where she sits inches away. Then Madi comes in. She sits to my right, I turn my head and we touch brows. Her slow breathing ushers mine to rhythm.
After that long stretch of hubbub from being wheeled-in to this very moment, the whole team collects in utter stillness. There is a silent pause before the woman surgeon speaks kindly and calm.
“Keren, when you and Madi start singing, we will begin.”
There is silence.
I breathe in, afraid. I breathe out. I breathe in again sucked into a roaring force pulsing through me, and with the next out-breath a full-throated tone shoots, coursing a confidence that overwhelms me. Fuller and fuller tones follow, with a steady but certain, quickening, fury.
Madi graciously conspires, backing up each note with her own.
These notes I sing became like roaring seas, one after another rolling on and over …
I cry out! I call out! I pray! A full-throttle call: for perfection in this surgery team! …for the glory of creation! …for new creatures coming in!
I become nothing but notes. I am safe and focused sharply, there.
Ancient Hebrew prayers unearth themselves into these tones. This sprung open body, still sensing unsettling rattling and tugs, is now surrendered to only the birthing.
I hollow and hallow all my self in over-flows of tones. I sing for my children. I sing for the glory of all creation… I am overtaken.
My head consistently to my right, inches from Madi’s own; she continues to tone. I know no thing and no one, only sound now: loud, resounding sound. I am otherwise empty.
I hear the team whisper seldom, otherwise silent, bustling still gently in the fleeting moments my attention opens a small window toward them. With their honouring and respect, I am able to stay in the sound-cave I have created. I become on the altar of my deepest beloved, feeling a trust that everyone is there for our three lives’ sake. I feel attended. I become surrendered.
“First breath!” she calls out, sharp and clear, piercing her words right into my strong unending song. I breathe in hearing that exclamation; tears are pressing up my throat. I sing again, more loudly.
“First breath!” she calls out again, like a ceremony’s captain, as the second new creation had emerged and taken air in. To know this second miracle occurred, a whimper wells-up, but is taken over by the urge to call out more notes.
My heart is a full sun and moonshine glow… as, to my left shoulder the midwife brings baby A.
My eyes still closed, I turn my head to near the new one’s. He is bleating softly like a lamb. My lips pucker to him air-kisses and my tones become little light notes, so tender and dear are the first sounds this one hears.
Now baby B is up by my right. I turn my head, eyes still closed, and smell this one, continuing softly singing. A tear drips down. My whispering lips turn to right and left, again and again, between my children, singing to them. Singing to them… knowing I will from now to forever, sing for them.
Madi’s own tone slides into a lake-like shimmer, holding us all, as she shakes a small seeded rattle beneath the table under my head: steady, softly… in the otherwise silence.
The pulse is pure. The song is woven. The babies are here.